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Egyptians seethe over murder in Germany

Anger — and insult — grow over the violent stabbing death of a Muslim woman in a Dresden courtroom.

Egyptians chant pro-Muslim and pro-Islamic dress slogans and carry banners that read, "who are the terrorists" and "why was she killed" as they demonstrate in front of the German embassy in Cairo, July 7, 2009. (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters)

CAIRO, Egypt — When a pregnant Egyptian woman fell victim to the hatred of a white supremacist in Germany last week, no one expected her death to resonate outside of a small circle in her hometown of Alexandria.

But it has done more than resonate: It has set off shockwaves of protests and brought to the surface Egyptians’ deepest insecurities based on a history of tension with the West.

Marwa al-Sherbini, 32, was testifying in a Dresden courtroom last Wednesday against 28-year-old "Alex W.," whom she had successfully sued for insulting her in a playground for wearing a headscarf. Alex W., so named by the police, was appealing the 780 euros in damages the court awarded Sherbini when he launched himself at her, stabbing her 18 times before security forces could intervene.

Sherbini's husband, who scrambled to his wife’s aid, was also stabbed, and police accidentally shot him in the leg. He remains in critical condition.

Sherbini had reportedly lived in Dresden since 2003 with her husband, Elwi Ali Okaz, a genetic engineer who reportedly was just about to earn his Ph.D. The couple had a 3-year-old son and were believed to be planning to return to Egypt at the end of the year. They were expecting a second child in January.

German authorities were quick to argue that such attacks are not representative of German sentiment toward Muslims. “This incident does not represent a trend or current in Germany,” said German ambassador to Egypt Bernd Erbel.

But as Sherbini’s body arrived back in Alexandria late Sunday night, it was clear that the killing had touched a deep nerve in Egypt.

“I hold the German government wholly responsible for the death of my sister,” Tarek al-Sherbini, the victim’s brother, told local television early this week.

“We will avenge her killing,” he told The Associated Press. “In the West, they don’t recognize us. There is racism.”

Outrage over Sherbini’s death has spilled onto the streets of Egypt’s two largest cities.

Thousands took to the streets in Alexandria for her funeral.

“There is no god but God and the Germans are the enemies of God,” mourners yelled.

On Tuesday, a small but vocal crowd gathered in front of the German Embassy in Cairo, chanting anti-Western slogans and accusing Germany of negligence.